FAO's headquarters in Rome


Pope to Food and Agriculture Organization: Good Intentions Aren't Enough

 «Is it still possible to conceive of a society in which the resources reside in the hands of the few, and the least privileged must make do with the leftovers?»

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On the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Holy Father sent a message to the director general Jose Graziano da Silva. 

Noting that a great number of our brothers and sisters still suffer from hunger and malnutrition in spite of the great efforts made to combat these problems, he condemns the underlying causes: an uneven distribution of resources and the lack of agricultural development. “We live in an age in which the unfettered pursuit of profit, the concentration of particular interests and the effects of unjust policies render less effective the actions taken by States or impede effective cooperation within the international community”. He adds that much remains to be done in this area.

The theme chosen for this year’s World Food Day – “Social protection and agriculture, breaking the cycle of poverty”, is an issue that affects two thirds of the world population, who lack even basic social protection. “This fact is made even more alarming by the fact that the majority of these people live in the most disadvantaged parts of countries where … the only means of survival is linked to scarce agricultural production, and small-scale fishing and animal husbandry. Indeed, the lack of social protection weighs most heavily on local farmers … and fishermen, forced to live in precarious conditions, as the fruit of their work depends largely on environmental conditions that are often outside their control, and they lack resources for facing poor harvests or for procuring the necessary technical tools. Paradoxically, even when production is abundant, they encounter serious difficulties linked to the transportation, sale and conservation of the fruits of their labour”. 

Faced with this situations, “we cannot be satisfied with a generic appeal for cooperation or to the common good. Perhaps we must ask: is it still possible to conceive of a society in which the resources reside in the hands of the few, and the least privileged must make do with the leftovers? The answer cannot be limited to good intentions, but must consist rather in ‘social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues”, the Pope writes.

The most disadvantaged, due to the lack of social protection, “suffer the negative consequences of a persistent economic crisis or phenomena linked to corruption and poor governance, as well as climate changes”, and “ask for our support, to be able to look to the future with a minimum of hope”. However, “social protection cannot be limited to an increase in income, or be reduced to investment in means of subsistence for an improvement of agricultural production or the promotion of equitable economic development. It must be made concrete in that ‘social love’ that is the key to genuine development. … Social protection can foster in the most disadvantaged a capacity for resilience, to face and overcome difficulties”. For instance, he added, it is able to “support the family, whose members learn from the beginning what it means to share, to help each other, and to protect each other. Guaranteeing family life means promoting the economic growth of women, thus consolidating their role in society, as well as favouring care for the elderly and enabling the young to continue their scholastic and professional preparation”.

“The Church does not have the mission of directly dealing with such problems from a technical point of view. However, the human aspects of these situations cannot leave her indifferent”. He concludes, “May all people, in accordance with their own possibilities, give the best of themselves in a spirit of genuine service to others. In this effort, the work of the FAO will be fundamental if it has the necessary means for ensuring social protection in the framework of sustainable development and the support of those who live and work in agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing and forestry”.

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